Arjun Mahadevan reports on the protest opposing redundancies at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
On a cold and windy afternoon at the front gates of Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London, around 50 protestors gathered to oppose redundancies that would see over half of the gallery’s visitor services team out of a job.
Members of the public and activists organising the demonstration were joined by supporters of the campaign against privatisation at the National Gallery, the Ritzy Living Wage campaign, University of the Arts London Students’ Union and Dulwich Hamlets FC fans, as well as members of the Equity, Unison and Unite unions – of which the gallery staff are members.
Some visitors to the gallery had already learned of the dispute through the campaign’s social media outlets and petitions displayed in local shops and cafes. Those that hadn’t, were shocked and angered by the proposals, which are detailed here.
Management were also distributing a statement to visitors, who were not impressed by their spin. The gallery insists it will introduce ‘fair and equitable’ contracts, but this is untrue. Staff members are not allowed to discuss the details of the new proposals, but given that the majority are currently on zero-hours contracts and they reject annualised hour contracts, it should give an indication of how bad the new proposals are. Many of the gallery assistants are artists, makers, writers, art therapists and historians and have creative practices outside the gallery. The new contracts render these practices incompatible with the gallery’s new demands.
The workers who are Unite members at the gallery are determined in their opposition to the redundancies and contract changes and have vowed to continue their fight until the proposals have been thrown out and not a single job lost.